Gov. Ho­gan ve­toes transportation bill

Dorchester Star - - Obituaries - By JOSH BOLLINGER jbollinger@star­dem.com

EAS­TON — Gov. Larry Ho­gan an­nounced on Fri­day, April 1, he had ve­toed a ma­jor transportation bill law­mak­ers had passed a day ear­lier. Repub­li­cans say Democrats hur­ried the bill through the leg­isla­tive process.

In a nearly two-and-a-half page let­ter, the Repub­li­can gover­nor out­lined his con­cerns with the legislation, which re­quires the Mary­land De­part­ment of Transportation to de­vise a scor­ing sys­tem to rank and choose road and tran­sit projects that in­crease ca­pac­ity and with a to­tal cost that ex­ceeds $5 mil­lion.

“This re­gret­table legislation ex­em­pli­fies the worst kind of pol­i­cy­mak­ing and it is not in the best in­ter­est of Mary­land tax­pay­ers,” Ho­gan wrote.

But there is enough time left in Mary­land’s 90-day ses­sion, which ends Mon­day, April 11, for Democrats to over­ride Ho­gan’s veto.

Bills passed with more than six days left in a leg­isla­tive ses­sion must be ve­toed by the gover­nor within six days, giv­ing the leg­is­la­ture an op­por­tu­nity to over­ride the veto dur­ing that ses­sion.

Veto over­rides re­quire the votes of three-fifths of the mem­bers of both the Se­nate and the House of Del­e­gates, re­quir­ing 29 votes in the Se­nate and 85 votes in the House. The legislation passed both houses by one vote short of that su­per ma­jor­ity, with some law­mak­ers ab­sent.

Much of Ho­gan’s con­cerns have been echoed by Repub­li­cans dur­ing House and Se­nate de­bates — partly that the process un­der the bill to choose ma­jor Mar yland State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Mary­land Tran­sit Au­thor­ity projects di­min­ishes the value of lo­cal in­put, and usurps the ex­ec­u­tive power to choose the projects.

The bill es­tab­lishes nine goals un­der which ma­jor cap­i­tal projects are to be scored and ranked. There is an ex­cep­tion to safety projects, such as im­prove­ments to a bridge.

The projects would be in­cluded by their rank into the draft Mary­land Con­sol­i­dated Transportation Pro­gram, which is the state’s plan for fund­ing transportation projects and cur­rently is de­vel­oped by coun­ties sub­mit­ting their top projects for con­sid­er­a­tion by the transportation de­part­ment.

The transportation sec­re­tary and gover­nor, how­ever, un­der the bill are al­lowed to fund a lower scor­ing project over a higher scor­ing project by sub­mit­ting a writ­ten ex­pla­na­tion.

Ho­gan wrote that his ad­min­is­tra­tion has taken a bal­anced ap­proach to transportation, and has funded top pri­or­i­ties in ever y dis­trict ex­pect for the Bal­ti­more Red Line, which Repub­li­can law­mak­ers in de­bates said caused Democrats to re­tal­i­ate by sub­mit­ting the transportation bill this leg­isla­tive ses­sion.

Ho­gan wrote the bill po­ten­tially puts ma­jor road, bridge and tran­sit in­vest­ments at risk across the state. He called the bill bad pub­lic pol­icy, ref­er­enc­ing a mea­sure in the bill where safety — one of the nine goals in the bill — can count for only 11 per­cent of a project’s to­tal score.

He also said the bill in­cen­tivizes coun­ties to sub­mit as many projects as pos­si­ble to the de­part­ment of transportation.

“For ex­am­ple, if Mont­gomery County had 50 transportation projects, the county would sub­mit ev­ery project and most of these projects (tran­sit and ur­ban fo­cused) would gen­er­ally score higher than projects in other parts of the State be­cause of the pop­u­la­tion mul­ti­plier re­quired un­der the bill,” the let­ter reads.

Ho­gan crit­i­cized the legislation as be­ing writ­ten by an “out­side, un­known bill drafter with­out in­clu­sion of the ex­per­tise of the (Mary­land De­part­ment of Transportation).”

“In a wor­ry­ing pre­view of what could hap­pen in fu­ture years, this bill was con­structed in a se­cre­tive and hap­haz­ard man­ner with enor­mous in­put from po­lit­i­cal pres­sure groups but with no real thought and no mean­ing­ful in­put from the De­part­ment of Transportation,” the let­ter reads.

Repub­li­cans said dur­ing de­bates in the Se­nate that the transportation de­part­ment was never in­volved in the bill’s draft­ing process. But Democrats, in­clud­ing Se­nate Pres­i­dent Mike Miller, said the de­part­ment was asked and didn’t get in­volved.

LARRY HO­GAN

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